It dawned on me Wednesday night as I stood in downtown Stevenson taking in a memorial service for five Stevensonians who died in the crash of TWA Flight 800 on July 17, 1996. 

“My daughter is their age,” I thought as the names of Joseph Scott and Thomas Weatherby III were mentioned. “They were too young.”

The boys were 13 years old and about to enter eighth grade when that fateful day occurred. Today, as grown men, they would be 30 years old — the same as my daughter.

A lump welled up in my throat thinking of the loss of those two promising young lives. Michael and Barbara Scott, Joseph’s parents, and Brenda Privette, Thomas’s mother, also died in that crash. 

Two families from a small town in Alabama wiped out on their way to France in what was to be a trip to remember for a lifetime. In a way life was over before it even began.

I stood there and thanked God for my family. Then, I thanked God for those two young men and the others lost. Their legacy lives on in Stevenson. It lives on in untold places.

You see, the tragedy prompted members of the Stevenson community to create the Michael Scott Learning Center. Thousands of people young and old have walked through its doors and taken advantage of classes held there and materials offered there through the years. 

Many have moved off unknowingly using the knowledge learned inside those walls  to further their own careers and lives and encourage other people.

Untold numbers of people will use the facility in the future. 

They’ll stay close to home or move away. But, each will pass on some of what was learned inside either intentionally or  unintentionally. Each time that occurs, it’s a testament to the five wonderful people who perished along with 225 others that day off Long Island, N.Y. 

As I listened to the proceedings and watched the people in the crowd gathered to dedicate a memorial just off Main Street, I sensed that a little piece of Joseph, Thomas, Michael, Barbara and Brenda resides inside each member of a tight-knit community. The part that is there has made the people their lives touched better individually and as a whole. 

I’ve covered this story since it happened. 

I passed it on to others through the written and spoken word and, looking back, I see that though sadness comes and goes in waves the good outweighs the bad. People know the story, remember the victims,  and are inspired by the lives each lived and the way they treated people. 

Joseph, Thomas, Michael, Barbara and Brenda were taken too early. They never experienced many of their hopes, dreams and aspirations but while they were here they did live life to the fullest.

 I believe they were greeted with “well done.”

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